For the first time in days, I’m starting to sweat. My head is spinning. And then it hits me, that smell which is so uniquely Bangkok: a thick, heady swirl of sweet jasmine blossoms and smoldering incense, the rotting funk of overripe durian fruit, the bizarre tang of eggs being roasted in their shells over red-hot charcoal, a thrilling whiff of lotus flowers, lemongrass and the vanilla-like perfume of pandanus. This is the way we were meant to travel!
Moments like this are what inspire our wanderlust and make our adventures more authentic. Thankfully the art of train travel is once again in vogue. Only, today’s best trains aren’t merely a means of getting from point A to point B. And although many of them still cling to the moniker “Express,” they are anything but quick. The trains themselves are just as much the destination as the extraordinary locales through which they chug, day and night. And although they more or less run like clockwork, there is hardly a mandatory schedule to keep for those onboard. Breakfast on the observation deck as the train climbs through a dew-soaked rainforest? Afternoon cocktails in the library car, while watching the desert become a blur? Eyes focused on the passing wetlands, searching for an elephant or perhaps a wildebeest? Dinnertime is almost always a glamorous affair—lobster, filet mignon, Champagne, soufflés… And there’s simply nothing else in the world that can compare to being lulled to sleep at night by the clickity-clack of the rails while cuddled in the finest linens and goose-down pillows, the curtains on the window left open to view the passing stars.
In an era of fast and furious travel, trains have become the ultimate luxury—not because we have to take a train to get where we’re going. But simply because we can. Here are four spectacular train journeys to consider:
New Delhi to Mumbai, via Rajasthan, 7 nights
Launched earlier this year, the long-awaited Maharajas Express is a lavish, royal-worthy joint venture between the government railway and luxury tour outfitter Cox and Kings. The eight-day voyage from Delhi to Mumbai travels through the former imperial cities of Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, passing through the rugged Aravali hills and across the Thar desert, where it’s highly likely you’ll see villagers attired in brightly colored robes and turbans crossing the plains with herds of camels. The train ventures into the former royal hunting grounds of Ranthambore, giving guests an opportunity to try to spot Rajasthan’s elusive Bengal tiger in its natural habitat. Throughout the journey, guests have a chance to visit the Taj Mahal, take a brief but exhilarating boat ride down the Chambal River, attend an exhibition elephant polo match and shop the local bazaars for precious stone jewelry and textiles.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 debut issue of Montage, the in-room magazine for Montage Hotels and Resorts. For more travel inspiration and photos, I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.